I used to be naïve and think that words meant what they sounded like or what the dictionary said they meant. I used to think that what people said was what they meant. But in shidduch dating, key words are laden with more meaning than Webster would know what to do with. So much is said between the lines that the pages are mostly blank!
Take “nice”. I’ve been told that “nice” is the alarm bell for “lacks personality.” Meaning, if someone calls you “nice” it means there’s nothing else to say about you.
I find that odd because I have a brother who, if I had to sum him up in one word, it would be “nice.” Seriously: the word was made up for him. He is kind, considerate, always looking out for others’ welfare, he truly likes everyone, he’s honest but never cruel… And he’s not trying, or anything—he’s genuine. He’s just a really nice guy. There’s no other way to say it. (Except maybe “super-mentch”.) So I guess it’s good nobody contacted me about him for shidduch questions. I would have said “He’s so nice.”
Then there is “open-minded.”
“Whatever you do, do not put open-minded on your shidduch profile thingy,” one friend informed me.
“Why not?” I asked, all greenhorn innocence.
“Because, like, well, let me put it this way. When you say you’re open-minded, what do you mean? You mean, like, that you like all Jews and you totally don’t think any one derech is better than another, and you don’t think non-Jews are like totally evil, and you think about new ideas instead of just laughing at them, and stuff like that, right?”
“Well guess what darling, I have news for you. The guys who write ‘open-minded’ about themselves? They’re, like, open to a new lifestyle. One that doesn’t necessarily include, like, halacha and things. And you don’t want that type, believe me. I totally went out with enough of them before someone clued me in.”
And don’t you love “well maybe a bit pudgy”? How can you know what to trust when people exaggerate like that? One wonders what description they use for people who are a bit pudgy. Skinny, probably. And thin people – that would make them emaciated. Let’s be dan likaf zechus. The reason men ask for dress sizes specifically is because it’s the only objective indicator available in a world of liars.
Then there is the way someone answers. If they say, “I don’t know,” it either means, “I really don’t know,” or it means, “I really don’t want to talk about that because it’s not pleasant.” You’ve got to hope that your parents are on top of the vocal inflections that impart the exact meaning.
And age! I always knew that women are titchy about revealing their age, but I never knew that it starts before marriage. I recently heard that a woman never ages beyond 21 until she’s married, while men rarely surpass 25. I suppose it works until the wrinkles set in.
There are doubtless more that I’m missing.
Something about this system strikes me as ah shtickel off, but I can’t quite put my finger on what…